OF THE PARISH - updated 17/10/2018
consists of St. John's church, Brandon and St. Catherine's church, New
The Parish Priest in charge is Revd. Carl Peters who began his ministry
in the Parish on 15th July 2014
Part of this history
was based on 'A History of St. John's Church, Brandon' which
was compiled by the late Mr. Jack Birtle
Church at Brancepeth was the Parish Church for a large area until the
mid 1800's. The coal mining area was then developed and many communities
and villages were established causing the population to increase rapidly.
From the Patronage of the Rector of Brancepeth, four daughter churches
were established. First was St Catherine's at Crook, in 1845, then St
Stephen's at Willington in 1858, St John's at Brandon in 1875 and St
Paul's at Waterhouses in 1879. Sadly the beautiful Church of St Brandon
was destroyed by fire on 16th September 1998. It is currently undergoing
restoration work. Brandon Parish was formed in 1875 when it was taken
out of the ancient Parish of Brancepeth. It comprised the vilages of
Langley Moor, Littleburn, Meadowfield, Browney, Brandon Colliery, Brandon
Village and Sleetburn.
St John's Church was built on a site in Meadowfield which was donated
by Lord Boyne who lived at Brancepeth Castle. It consisted of a nave,
chancel and a small vestry built of good stone in an early perpendicular
style. There was room for 400 people and it was built at a cost of £4,173.
The Bishop of Durham (W. Baring.) held the Consecration Service on St
John's Day, December 27th, 1875 and the first services were taking place
during 1876. The church was not then known as the Parish Church, but
as a District Chapelry. It was not registered as a Parish Church until
December 1877. Father Joseph Lawson who had been ordained in 1871 and
was Curate at Brancepeth, became the first Vicar of the parish. A Vicarage
was built halfway up Brandon Hill, a Victorian house chosen by Father
Lawson with a mortgage of £600. The living, which was a gift from
the Rector of Brancepeth (Arthur Shafto) was for £300 per year.
During 1881 a faculty was sought for a church organ. Harrison and Harrison
built the organ which was completed for Ash Wednesday 1882 at a cost
of £245. The same organ is still in use today.
As the parish grew, St Catherine's church was built in New Brancepeth
(Sleetburn). The church was dedicated on September 11th 1890 by Bishop
Westcott and Father Arnott was the first Curate.
In 1893, St Agatha's Mission Church was opened in Brandon. This was
the idea of Canon Body, The Church was consecrated by Bishop Westcott
and it’s first Curate was Father Sykes. At about the same time
a house was found to rent in Cobden Terrace for the Curate. The annual
rent was £10. Cobden Terrace was a fine terrace built near the
top of the Colliery rows. Father Lawson retired on April 3rd 1903 to
live at Shincliffe. He died in December 1903 and was buried in Brandon
Village Cemetery. The Cemetery and Chapel were opened in 1863 before
the Parish Church.
A new Vicar, Father Walter Ransome was instituted on July 25th 1903,
by the Bishop of Durham, Dr Moule. The Vicar had come from the slums
of East London and was so popular on Sunday evenings that the congregation
needed to arrive early to ensure that they would have a seat. Additional
room needed to be found so the North aisle was added. The pulpit was
moved to the South position and the Lecturn was moved to it's position
beside the center pillar. The church was re-roofed, a new Choir Vestry
erected and a new heating system installed. A new step was added to
the Sanctuary for a new Holy Table, repositioning the pulpit and the
font. The Nave had a new floor fitted and the organ was restored at
a cost of £130 which was a princely sum in those days. To help
with the costs, William Ellis, the Assistant Organist of Durham Cathedral
gave a recital. A consecration of the alterations was performed on July
27th 1905 by assistant Bishop Hodges. Lord Boyne and his family attended
with several priests, after which a celebration lunch was held in the
Brancepeth Hotel, Meadowfield. The Vicar conducted many outdoor services,
which were popular with the congregation, but were very unpopular with
others. He introduced vestments and weekday Masses. The Vicar however,
decided he had a call to become a missionary and in October 1906 he
resigned and went out to Zanzibar.
22nd 1906 Father Harry Hayward was instituted by the Archdeacon, the
Venerable W. Watkins D.D.A. The Bishop of Durham, Dr Moule, opened a
cemetery at Meadowfield on September 19th 1907. A Church Hall was proposed
and 1508 square yards of land adjourning the Church grounds was rented
for the sum of 5/-per year from the Church Commissioners and in 1911
the Parochial Hall was built.
The First World War broke out in 1914 and in 1916 Father Hayward joined
the forces in France where he served as a Padre. He returned to the
Parish in 1919. The Senior Assistant Curate Father O. Burrows was in
charge of the Parish whilst Father Hayward served in France.
In 1920 the Vicar became British Legion Chaplain and War Memorials were
installed in the Parish Church - brass plates naming those who had given
their lives to their country. (During the war one of the Curates, Father
Dickinson was killed in France.) Father Ransome, who had been in a German
internment camp, was released due to his ill health. He died on the
way back to Zanzibar on November 19th, 1916. Later, two wooden standard
candlesticks were dedicated to his memory. They are still in use today
- one in St Johns and the other in St Catherine's. A stained glass window
depicting the four Gospel writers and their symbols replaced the plain
east window. St. Matthew is depicted as a man, St. Mark as a lion, St.
Luke as a calf, St. John as an eagle and Christ as a pelican on her
nest feeding the young. A wrought iron Chancel screen was also added
at that time. The chancel rails and gate which depict the Greek letters
Alpha and Omega were installed as a memorial to the men who died in
the First World War.
Father Hayward was admired by all in the Parish. He was Chairman of
the Urban Council, a Freemason and took great interest in the events
of the time. His wife died in May 1928 and Father Hayward died shortly
after in October 1928.
Vicar, Father Ernest Francis Tallents was instituted on May 10th, 1929
by Herbert Henry Henson, the Bishop of Durham. Father Tallents was a
quiet man of Anglo-Catholic faith. He left in 1934 to administer to
a small village church at Bossal near York.
On the 15th of June, 1934 Father George Halstead Greenfield was instituted
by the Bishop of Durham and inducted by the Bishop of Jarrow who was
the Archdeacon of Durham. Fr. Greenfield was not so interested in the
Catholic tradition but more for the music of the church. He sought and
found an academically trained organist. Ambrose Hillery was his choice
and the church had the pleasure of an excellent choir singing anthems
etc at Evensongs.
During October, 1938 the church was given a faculty to remove the Dorsal
Curtains which had been situated on either side of the High Altar and
were attached to the wall. Four of the six brass candlesticks were also
removed, the existing lighting was replace with floodlights and five
pews were removed from the north-west corner to make way for a children's
corner. Those five pews were rearranged to face the Font. All the old
pictures were removed. The Alter frontals were removed and the reredos
(the ornamental screen behind the altar) varnished. Sung Eucharist and
Sung Matins were introduced on alternate Sundays.
At the outbreak of World War 2 broke out in 1939 Father Greenfield was
appointed Chief Air warden for Brandon and the Army commandeered the
Parochial Hall. At the same time there were various youth groups, a
strong Church Lads Brigade and Mothers Union led by Mrs Greenfield who
all had to make alternate arrangements.
the Second World War the organist, Mr Hillery served in the R.A.F. and
was re-employed in August 1946 with a salary of £50 per annum.
The Church had several accomplished organists during the war years.
One was a Mr Brockhill who left to become organist at Newcastle Cathedral.
At that time the organ was blown by hand, however after the war an electric
blower was fitted.
4th 1942 tragedy struck St Catherine's when two boys lit candles and
set fire to the Church destroying the fabric completely. The only thing
saved was the bell which had originally came from a shipwreck. Whilst
the fire blazed our Vicar attempted to save some of the contents and
was injured. He received treatment at the County Hospital which at that
time was the Accident and Emergency Hospital. St Catherine's congregation
moved into the Church Hall which became the lovely Church which is in
use now. The famous bell is still there.
During 1947, the running of St Catherine's was moved out of the Parish
and became part of Ushaw Moor parish, but returned in 1962. After the
end of the Second World War the army moved out of the Church Hall, and
with several grants awarded to the Church the Hall was renovated. It
was painted and stage and window curtains were renewed. The Church Lads
Brigade benefited from sports equipment and a Bugle and Drums band was
formed. The band was reported to awaken the whole of Meadowfield from
their beds on a Sunday morning! Father Greenfield left the Parish in
early 1949. He died on April 27th 1987 at Salcombe in Devon.
Father W.E. Wright was Rector of Brancepeth at the time of Father Greenfield's
retirement. He had trained at St Chad's Durham and one of his friends
was Father John Newman Ellwood. He came to Brandon and was inducted
Vicar of Brandon on May 12th, 1949. Father Ellwood brought a more Catholic
tradition with more ritual and ceremony. Fr. Ellwood lived in the Vicarage
with his schoolteacher sister. He immediately restored the Altar frontals,
the six big candles and the Paschal candle. He also brought his own
copes in different colours for different seasons and were draped around
his shoulders during Benediction and processions. The servers changed
from wearing cassocks to wearing albs. During 1952, he altered part
of the Vicarage by dividing part of it into a separate house and cottage
at a cost of £220.
mines closed and the population moved on it was decided, in 1956, that
St. Agatha's would close. The altar was brought to St Johns where it
formed a Lady Chapel in the North Aisle. The beautiful wooden eagle
lectern and some of the books were brought to St. Johns, as was the
font. Until that time all masses were at the High Altar. These additions
from St Agatha's enabled the priest to use the Lady Chapel when the
choir was not present. The schoolhouse and hall at Brandon Village was
sold during 1958.
Changes in the area resulted in part of the Church grounds (624.3 square
yards) being sold to Brandon Urban District Council to make a road into
the new trading estate in 1966. Shortly after in March 1969, the stone
pulpit in St John's was in need of repair and the Vicar purchased a
wooden pulpit from the redundant Church of St Mary-le-Bow in Durham
City. He still visited his old St Chad's College where he had trained
their boat crew and was an official at the Durham Regattas. After St
Agatha's closed in 1956, he continued to serve the two remaining churches
in the Parish, often travelling by public transport. After the death
of his sister his own health diminished; however he carried on his duties
as he particularly wanted to serve twenty-five years in this Parish.
He was 75 years old when he retired on the 12th May 1974. He retired
to Cheshire where he died on All Souls Day in 1974 and was buried in
a family grave at Lower Peover, the parish he had lived in prior to
arriving at Brandon. The next 15 months were very dark times for Brandon.
There was no Vicar and during this interregnum, negotiations took place
in which the main topic for discussion was possibly closing St John's
and using the old Vicarage (which was for sale) as a Community Centre
for services and meetings. . However, a public meeting was held with
the Pastoral Committee and the decision was made to give the parishioners
time to improve the church fabric and make the building stable.
The position improved when, at last, a new priest was appointed and
on September 3rd, 1975 the Bishop of Durham, the Right Rev. John Habgood,
inducted Father Michael Bootes O.G.S. He had been Chaplain at East Grinstead
and was a man of many talents. At his first curacy he had also been
in charge of music. He arrived into the Parish with his mother and their
first home was the old Vicarage cottage as the new vicarage (now the
Clergy House) was being built in the southern part of the Old Vicarage
grounds. This had been sited there at Father Ellwood's request. The
P.C.C. had been against this decision as they had wanted the new house
in the church grounds at Meadowfield. However the Diocese decided to
use part of the Old Vicarage grounds. The Old Vicarage was then sold
for £16,000. After three or four months the new Vicarage was ready
and Father Bootes moved in. During the short time Father Bootes was
in Brandon, he organised fund raising events with the help of the P.C.C.
which resulted in a new heating system for the Church and the roof was
repaired. The Church Hall was repainted and repaired, and an organ restoration
fund started. His singing was a great asset to the choir who gave choral
recitals to raise money for the organ fund. Sadly, at the same time
vandals were at work in the Village Cemetery and mining subsidence was
causing the perimeter walls next to the road to become dangerous. It
was decided to apply to Queens Counsel to close it; this was granted
and the cemetery was closed to new burials in June 1982. However the
graves can still be visited and at this moment (2001) the City Council
is carrying out extensive repairs to the Cemetery. After only three
years Father Bootes left the Parish and became Chaplain and teacher
in a Public School at Hove.
The church organ was overhauled in 1978 by Harrison's and was dedicated
to Fr Ellwood for his twenty-five years service to the Parish. This
was the wish of the organist, Ambrose Hillery, and a small plaque on
the organ commemorates this event. The organ was also overhauled in
1990. Ambrose Hillery, the organist was a very talented organist and
also composed his own music. His music is still sang as an accompaniment
to "The Lord's My Shepherd" and gives everyone great pleasure.
In 1979 the congregation had their first experience of the Company of
Mission Priests. (C.M.P.) when Father Robert Stretton was inducted as
the eighth Vicar. This was to be his first parish as a Vicar. He carried
on the same Anglo-Catholic traditions. He encouraged members of the
congregation to purchase individual Stations of the Cross at a cost
of £50 per station in memory of their departed loved ones. These
are used during Lent. Father Robert was very fond of the Shrine of Our
Lady of Walsingham in Norfolk, and in memory of his late father purchased
the hand carved statue of Our Lady of Walsingham which is in the church.and
he started the annual pilgrimage to Walsingham. Later, an anonymous
donor was to give a statue of St John the Evangelist to the Church.
The present Tabernacle, which holds the Blessed Sacrament for the sick
and is on a stand next to the Lady Chapel Altar, was also another gift.
Votive candles came into use.
In 1981 Father Robert as he was known, led a pilgrimage to the Holy
Land. Father Robert liked to walk around the Parish, meeting everyone
whether churchgoer or not. Everyone was surprised when he announced
that he was leaving to join the Society of The Sacred Mission. He said
that he had thought about his calling and had finally been accepted
by Father Edmund Wheat, who opened the Priory of St Anthony in Durham.
Father Robert had arranged for the confirmation services to take place
at Epiphany and his last service at St John's took place a week later
on January 13th, 1985. The next Vicar came from South Africa; Father
Beverley Johnson who was inducted on May 30th, 1985. He had been ordained
in Capetown before travelling to England. He had been Curate at Redhouse,
Sunderland and Vicar of Waterhouses before moving to Bournmoor, then
to Brandon. Apparently, Father Johnson had always envied this Parish
and intended to stay at Brandon until he retired. However the plan was
changed after he was given the opportunity to go to Australia. He left
Brandon on May 28th, 1989. The Parish then had a year's interregnum
and the Benefice of the Parish was suspended. As there was no Rector
of Brancepeth the Patronage of the Parish passed to the Lord Bishop
of Durham. On May 29th, 1990 two C.M.P. priests from St Anthony's Newcastle
were appointed and licensed to the Parish by the Bishop of Durham. Father
Brian Godsell was to be Priest-in-Charge and Father Peter Brown was
to be Assistant Priest.
Changes were introduced. Some of the congregation were sceptical at
first about the use of incense but they became accustomed to it's use.
Since these most recent priests arrived and started their Ministry in
Brandon, the Parish has become more alive and the congregation has grown.
Father Peter's work with the children of our community and schools make
the church and the children have a bond for the future. The children
and schools are encouraged to visit the church and become familiar with
the building and the Services. In November, 1992 the Church of England
Synod voted on the ordination of women to the priesthood. The vote was
passed by a narrow margin. This had caused unrest in parts of the Church
of England, and when the Bishops began to ordain women in 1994, an organisation
called "Forward in Faith" was set up to cater for those who
were strongly against the ordination of women. The Parish P.C.C. passed
Resolutions A and B which does not allow women priests to say mass in
this Parish. Brandon Parish joined "Forward in Faith" and
for the spiritual needs the Provincial Bishop of Beverley tends to their
The work of restoring and renovation still goes on. The Church Hall
and Church were repainted in 1993 and in the same year work on the organ
was completed. The Church has had more renovations and additions. A
long awaited ramp for the disabled has been added to the main entrance,
a beautiful porch which helps keep out the cold weather has been added
also cupboards and a toilet. Bishop John of Beverley blessed these on
May 21st 1997.
The Parish has an annual pilgrimage to Walsingham every June. There
have also been other pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Rome and Assisi and
Lourdes. On the 26th June, 1994 the Benefice was restored to the Parish
after 4 years when Father Brian was licensed in Auckland Castle by the
Bishop of Durham as Vicar of the Parish. He was installed in his seat
in the church by the Archdeacon of Durham the following Sunday. In 2001,
Fr. Peter was made Honorary Canon of Durham Cathedral. This was the
first occasion that a serving priest from the parish had been so honoured.
Fr. Brian retired in September 2005 and after a short inrterregnum,
Fr. Peter Brown was inducted as the new vicar on Friday 20th December,
The priests worked tirelessly in the community dealing with many problems;
not only from the congregation but also from many members of the general
public who have great confidence in them. No one was ever turned away
and the Parish was grateful for their gentle care.
Fr. Peter retired
as Parish Priest on 31st August 2012 . Fr Brian passed away on Thursday
6th September 2012.
Following Fr. Peter Brown's retirement, the Parish voted to return to
the Anglican style of Worship, rescinded Resulutions A&B and are
now under the care of the Bishop of Durham.
St. John's church hall was destroyed by a fire on 23rd March 2014 after
being a Church hall for the community since 1911. Fundraising began
to rebuild the hall with the help of various local organisations, including
the Royal British Legion. Work began on the rebuild on 14th August 2018
and is due to be completed in March 2019.
Revd. Carl Peters began his ministry in the Parish on 15th July 2014.
In 2018, it was decided that a new heating system in the church was
becoming a priority. Fund was started and the money was soon raised
to install the heating which is a vast improvement on the old system.
St. John’s held a Celebration Weekend on 6th & 7th October
, 2018 to celebrate the completion of the church heating project and
the Harvest Festival.
called Sleetburn, New Brancepeth is a former colliery village 2 miles
North west of Ushaw moor. In 1890, the population of Brandon parish
had grown rapidly with the opening of the Coal mines so it was decided
to build a daughter Church at New Brancepeth. This was built in a field
in the south-west of the village and the land was given by Lord Boyne.
The old church was erected as a Chapel of Ease to St. John the Evangelist
church at Brandon. It was built of stone in the Gothic style and consisted
of a nave, chancel, transepts, 2 vestries and a small western tower
with 1 bell. It was a fine stone building to seat a congregation of
two hundred and fifty two and cost £2000. The subscribers were
New Brancepeth Coal Co. - £500; Ecclesiastical Commissioners -
£500; The Bishop's Fund - £200; Rev. A.D. Shaftoe of Brancepeth
- £100. The lectern was a gift from the Countess Boyne and the
carved pulpit was a gift from the villagers. A great deal of the furnishings
were provided by Mr. Cochrane a Coal-owner of Eshwood Hall, who had
his own private road constructed from his residence to the Church. The
Church was dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria and it was consecrated
on September 11th.1890, by Bishop Westcott. The first curate was Fr.
Arnott It was part of the Parish of St. John's, Brandon under Fr. Lawson
On July 4th 1942, two schoolboys lit the candles in the Church, setting
fire to the fabric, destroying the church completely. The only thing
salvaged was the church bell: it was said this bell came from a ship-wreck
given by Mr. C. White of Eshwood Street. The bell was transferred to
the Mission Hall which is now St. Catherine's present Church.
In 1947 the Church was transferred into the Parish of Ushaw Moor but
after 15 years Fr. Ellwood negotiated for St. Catherine's to be returned
to the Parish of Brandon where it belonged under the Vicar of Brandon.
The last clergy were Parish Priest Canon Peter Brown and assistant priest
Fr. Brian Godsell, They had the help of reader Liz.
Fr. Peter retired
as Parish Priest on 31st August 2012 . Fr Brian passed away on Thursday
6th September 2012.
Revd. Carl Peters began his ministry in the Parish on 15th July 2014.
Following a year of fund-raising, work on a new roof over the porch,
kitchen and vestry began in July 2014 and finished in May 2016 (see
Lunch Clubs started in November 2016 on a monthly basis which have proved
to be popular. People can get a good meal and some form of entertainment
or a speaker each month.
The original chimney over the boiler house was removed in September
2018 and the interior of the church where damp had seeped through was
decorated in June 2018.
Patronal Festival falls each year on November 25th.